Portugal, part one

“But the most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people, and places, and memories, and pictures. They’re feelings, and moments, and smiles, and laughter.”  Anonymous

FADO

I have to start my experience in Portugal with Fado. I was absolutely smitten from the first time I heard it. It is a style of music like no other. It is mournful and stirring. There are newer Fados that are more upbeat, which are just as lovely to hear. My Fado experience began with a three-hour tuk-tuk tour, and one of the places my guide took me was to a very tiny bar with a male Fado singer. We were sitting near the door and you can see how close the bar is. I would have loved to go to other bars and restaurants like this. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4tnAm6zvy4

One thing that struck me while I was listening to my first Fado was that no one spoke. The tiny bar was in total silence. When I asked my guide why she politely put her finger to her lips to silence me. Later, I found out that there is an unwritten rule that there is no talking, ordering drinks, or eating. You are to put your utensils down. Also, you are not to enter a bar/club until the singer has finished. I thought that was a great set of rules. It shows respect for the performer. It reminded me of a time in Mexico when we went to hear a very talented guitarist. Even though it was held in a bar, the band was set up on the dance floor, and dancing was discouraged. There were people seated behind us who talked through the whole performance. It was very annoying. Why bother to come to a concert if you do not intend to listen?

I did not understand any of the words that were sung, but the emotion being expressed was universal. It was impossible not to be moved. If you listen carefully, you will feel a bit of the meaning even if you do not understand the words.

Fado has a fascinating history. The famous Fado singer, Amália Rodrigues said “The Portuguese invented Fado because we have a lot to complain about. On one side, we have the Spanish with their swords; on the other side, there’s the sea, which was unknown and fearful. When people set sail, we were waiting and suffering, so Fado is a complaint.” As a homage to Amália Rodrigues and Maria Severa female Fado singers usually wear a black shawl and bright red lipstick. According to one website, Maria Severa worked as a prostitute. She was described as tall, gracious with the voice of an angel. Her voice would capture audiences of rowdy sailors while she sung Fado based upon the hardships she had faced. She died from tuberculosis in 1846 at the age of 26.

Fado has been dominated by female singers, but recently more men are becoming Fadistas. The one difference is in Coimbra. Their fado is closely linked to the University and is sung by men. Both the men and the musicians wear an academic outfit; dark robe, cape and leggings. One story is that it is sung to woo the women.  As lovely as it was to hear, I preferred the fado from Lisbon. Lisbon’s fado is emotional, mournful and powerful.

After my tuk-tuk tour, I knew I had to find more Fado music to listen to. Fortunately, my tuk-tuk guide had a brochure on a few places to listen to Fado. My first one was at the Embaixada Gallery Restaurant. It was a perfect setting to hear Fado.  The room was beautiful. There were two singers, one an “older” woman and the other a young man. I was enthralled.  After that concert, I was absolutely hooked! I tried to take videos, but unfortunately, the quality is not good. However, you will get a general feel of the place and the singers. Sadly I did not get the names of the singers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YarjPVkpZ4E

My next concert was at Pavilháo Chinés (Chinese Pavilion). It is Lisbon’s most iconic bar. The venue itself was unique with thousands of small pieces of art, military artifacts and vintage items. There was hardly an inch that did not have something. When you first enter the bar, there is a restaurant. The room for the concert was in the pool room, which also contained hundreds of items. Unfortunately, I was on the other side of the table, but the room was small enough that it was not a significant problem.

 

Isabelinha was the Fado singer that evening. She was excellent. Isabelinha also took time to explain about Fado to the audience. Below is a link to a Youtube video of hers that will show you her talent.

Accompanying her was Bernardo Couto on the Portuguese guitar and Pedro Saltac on the classical/ Fado guitar. They too were excellent. Unfortunately, I could not find a video for Pedro Saltac.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=autvr1xG2gw

Here is the professional video of Isabelinha

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRtjTP9O9co

When I first decided to go to Portugal, I must be honest and tell you that my decision to go there was first based on the proximity to Morocco where I first would be taking a tour. Portugal was not high on my list of countries to see. I thought it would be interesting but nothing more than that. Fado was my first introduction to my love affair with Portugal. I would gladly return to see more of Portugal, which I don’t say of some countries.

Sung with passion, Fado will touch you.

 

 

 

Tangier, Chefchaouen and Volubilis

Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.” Anonymous

TANGIER

Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, sits the bustling port of Tangier. The cross-cultural influences in food and architecture from North Africa, Spain, Portugal and France converse in this fascinating city. During World War Two, spies, businessmen, writers, and artists arrived in Tangier seeking opportunities and adding even more to its diversity.

We had an excellent tour guide on this portion of our trip. He took us to the Kasbah where he explained what a Kasbah is (walled city) and how it has changed over the years. An example of such change is the homes within the walled city.  People have started buying homes and apartments and have turned them into BnB’s and vacation rentals. Families who used to live inside its walls have left for life and opportunities outside the Kasbah.

Our local guide

I love doors and there were so many that were very unique.

We also toured the Medina where there many goods for sale from handcrafted Moroccan artisan ware to typical Moroccan food. One place we stopped was the Café Baba where the Rolling Stones were customers when they were holed up in Tangier while awaiting a verdict from their drug charges in the UK.

photo credit Mat McKeever

CHEFCHAOUEN

I really liked Chefchaouen. It is a quiet and relaxed town. You can wander aimlessly and come across many fascinating sights. There were cats everywhere. In stores, restaurants, and in the streets. However, the first thing that you see is BLUE on every building. All different shades of blue. There are a few theories as to why: one popular opinion is that it keeps mosquitos away; another is that the walls are painted blue to attract tourists. Perhaps, it is a combination of the two?

Our Hotel

Photo credit Mat McKeever

Photo credit Mat McKeever

Photo credit Mat McKeever

Photo credit Mat McKeever

 

 

Our group was given a choice to climb up to the Spanish Mosque which is a mile long hike up the hill. I decided that I was not going to attempt it. Instead, I chose to sit and watch locals and tourists alike wander along the river. I loved watching all the people, one of my favourite things to do.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants from which to choose. You could easily spend a pleasant couple of days in this relaxing place.

You will also see cats everywhere. Just like this little cutie.

Photo credit Mat McKeever

VOLUBILIS

Volubilis is a well best-preserved Roman ruin. The walled city was once home to 20,000 people. The buildings were destroyed when an earthquake hit Lisbon in the 18th century which flattened Lisbon. It is incredible that anything survived, but you can still see detailed mosaics with themes of Greek myths on the floors of some of the destroyed buildings.

Entrance

 

It was an incredibly hot day when we toured Volubilis. I would have loved to have taken in more, but quickly realized that my priority more was finding relief from the hot sun than sightseeing. I believe the temperature was in the 40’s Celsius range.

It was time to travel to our next destination

Colima, Mexico Horse Parade

“Travel makes you realize that no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn.”

Every year Mex-Eco Tours organizes a trip to Colima to see the annual Fiestas Charrotaurinas, held in honour of San Felipe de Jesus. This tour is so popular that it must be booked one year, in advance.

I have always loved horses. Even as a child I collected ceramic ones. Later in life, I owned 2 horses. One I had never ridden and the other I rode many times until she threw me and I broke my wrist. Still, I have maintained my love and awe for them. This trip was like a dream for me.

Our group started with a tour of La Petatera, a handmade wooden bullring, which is constructed and then taken down every year for fiestas, horse shows and bullfighting. We were greeted by Mayor Felipe Cruz Calvario and a delegation, including Eulalia Villalvazo and Oscar Gaitan Cabrera from the Colima tourism. We felt honoured. They are very passionate about their city and, as I was to discover, rightfully so.

To contact Oscar Gaitlan Cabrera, Promoción Divulgación: buras52@hotmail.com

To contact Eulalia Villalvazo, Tourism Colima: tourismovilladealvarez1821@gmail.com

The bullring was first built in 1857. At one time it was two stories high, but in 1942 there was an earthquake, and after that, it was decided to make it a one-story building. The same 63 families have been building the bullring for the past 175 years, passing down the knowledge of how it is constructed to the next generation. If the family cannot do part of the construction, they are allowed to hire someone to do it. The builders use no nails or any “modern” methods. The wooden structure is covered with mats made with palm leaves. Forty people take 30 – 45 days to complete construction. It is all measured and laid out, without the use of a measuring tape, but by one man using a special stick. Two years ago this 84-year-old was supposed to hand over this stick to his son, but apparently, he was not ready yet to relinquish control. There are no blueprints for this building. It is all in the head. Each person that is involved knows exactly what they are doing. That includes the bullring and all the corrals outside. It takes one week to take down. The wood, mats and other material are kept year after year only to be replaced if damaged. It is the responsibility of each family to store their wood and materials. The bullring is divided into 70 parts, and there is one share per family. The remaining part is owned by the government and is decided by vote as to which family will get that share. 120 families are vying for that part. Each share brings in money from the sale of tickets. Whatever tickets are sold for each section goes to the family who owns it. The bullring holds 7000 people.

The bullfight lasts for a few days and one morning is set aside for inexperienced riders to mount the less spirited bulls. Don’t think I will be doing that.
The tour of the bullring and learning of its history, as well as the story behind the patron Saint San Felipe de Jesus, was fascinating and informative. There is so much history.

We spent the rest of the day exploring some of Colima.

The tour company had reserved rooms at the Best Western Plus Hotel. The accommodations were very nice and the staff friendly and helpful. The hotel had set up tables for our group directly in front of the parade route. We could literally reach out and touch some of the horses.

Best Western Plus: https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotels-in-colima/best-western-plus-hotel-ceballos/propertyCode.70146.html

There were between 2500 and 2900 horses. The number is actually irrelevant as there were so many horses that it took three to four hours for the parade to finish. The parade started a few blocks from where we were and continued for several kilometres until it reached the bullring. Not only were there horses but several floats carrying live bands playing. The bands were very loud but entertaining. I felt sorry for the horses that were directly behind those floats. There were also large puppet-like figures and of course the shrine to Saint San Felipe de Jesus. Many of the horses did fancy footwork. Most of the riders gave their horses a break from the intense footwork, but a few did not. When they passed by us, those horses were already frothing, and they still had a few kilometres to go.
All in all, it was a fascinating event to see.

photo credit Lucia McCann

photo credit Lucia McCann

Photo credit Lucia McCann

Two short videos to give you an idea of what it was like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQqdVTIo5Jo

and https://youtu.be/pKsoZFtv7yg

As part of the tour, we drove to Comala, a small town close to Colima.

We visited the Ex-Hacienda de Nogueras. In the 18th century, it was a renowned sugar company founded by the Spaniard Juan de Noguera. Today, it is part of the University of Colima. Its facilities were remodelled to become a Study Center, Eco Park and the Alejandro Rangel University Museum which exhibits works of the famous artist, Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo. The Eco Park is used for the preservation of flora and fauna research in the region. You will find medicinal plants, fruit trees and composting. There is also an area where the use of alternative energy is shown and where they have workshops on recycling and environmental training. In 2003, Comala won the best magic town in Mexico award.

Horsetail that we consider is a weed

We also went to the University of Arts where we were fortunate enough to see some very talented artists at work.

In a small village, Suchitlan, near Comala we went to the home and workshop of Gorgonio Candelario Castro, son of the renowned carver Herminio Candelario Dolores who passed away a few years ago. I had visited them several years ago when his father was still alive. I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered me. Gorgonio maintains the traditions of his people, the land and the spirits which inhabit it. As his father did, he specializes in the masks used in the traditional dances. I feel fortunate to have one of his masks.

 


Next on our tour was to a coffee plantation where we learned about the process of making coffee. The coffee beans are grown organically, and the claim is that the mild ash falling from the active volcano provides nutrients to the soil which in turn, makes a better coffee bean. We finished with a wonderful latte and the opportunity to purchase their coffee.

Our last stop was to “Ron Clasica,” a rum distillery. The distillery was conceived by the owners who were looking to start something unique. They felt that they could make a good rum because of the sugar cane in the area. They hired a consultant from Cuba to see if the sugar cane was of good enough quality to make a superior rum. The consultant did not think that it would be good enough. He was pleasantly surprised to find that it was. He eventually ended up working for the family. After a tour of the facility and the sugar cane fields, we were given the ingredients to make mojitos. After that, were served martinis made with tamarind, lime and rum. Some good!

 


The only disappointment with this trip was the fact that we could not stay longer. We explored only a small part of this wonderful city. I keep wanting to go back and see more. It has that special feel. I would highly recommend a visit to Colima.

We had an excellent tour guide, Florencio Amexcua Quiroz. He was very knowledgeable about Colima and the surrounding area. I would definitely use him again for a guide. Email: corazondecolima@gmail.com Phone: (312) 314-08-96

Travelling with Dementia; a journey of unbelievable proportions

I am very happy to once again have Christine Thelker as a guest writer. This blog will hopefully inspire you, as it did me, to go out and enjoy life regardless of what is holding you back. There is always a way. Thank you so much, Christine, for your inspiring story.  

 

Travelling with Dementia: a journey of unbelievable proportions

The journey over the last year has been unbelievable, not all has been easy, but all have brought about some very amazing sights, sounds and meeting of some of the most amazing people imaginable. The last time I wrote I was on a journey to return to Cassiar Cannery, a favourite place of mine to retreat and regroup. It was there that I met Suzanne and her husband, which lead to me appearing as a guest writer on this travel blog.  There were a few things I had not mentioned in that blog, one and the most important being that I am a person living with Dementia. That trip was taken because the doctors were talking about taking my license away, and my health was declining.  This trip leads me on the most unbelievable journey. I became involved with Dementia Alliance International. It is an association that is in 47 countries run solely by and for people living with Dementia.  Delving into becoming an active member saw me advocating, and writing a blog about living with Dementia – Chrissy’s Journey can be found on Facebook.

 

I spent seven months unable to drive, which was heartbreaking, and challenging, but I persevered. I travelled differently, mostly on foot, saw things from a different perspective, and saw things close to home that I had always missed. It taught me to stop the car, get out and look around. Seven months later, after spending months working on lifestyle and nutrition changes, and exercise programs, I was once again driving. Oh, happy day. Since then there have been many road trips. Some close to home, some like my trip to Chicago last July to speak at the International Convention on Alzheimer’s. Trips as late as last week, with a new found partner, who I am also grateful to have, and who is thrilled to journey down the highways and byways with me.

That is me in the middle.

Chicago was a lifetime and life-changing experience.  There I met many of my colleagues with Dementia Alliance International, where after having had many zoom meetings we all converged to speak at the convention.  From as far away as Japan, we had people from around the globe representing our group. It was wonderful to meet face to face. Exploring Chicago was a pleasant surprise and a city I hope to return to. Chicago is clean, safe, and has easy access to everything, from the buses that show you the sites to city buses, trains and boats. They are all easy to navigate.  The waterfront is stunning. The Magnificent Mile is truly a treasure. Walking it along the riverfront, restaurants, and coffee shops abound. We felt safe walking at 11 at night. In the morning, getting to and from venues, and the airport was so simple.


 

 

It somehow doesn’t feel like a city. It has a relaxed atmosphere; people don’t seem harried or rushed

here. If you get the chance, visit this city.

Returning home, it was time for my partner and me to make plans for our life together; we had committed to each other.  This commitment saw Jim move from Prince George to Kamloops and me from Vernon to Kamloops to combine our lives. We would be living in a fifth wheel trailer. Kamloops is desert-like, a lovely city which offers something for everyone. The surrounding area is stunning on its own. From there Jim’s work took us to Spences Bridge, the warmest spot in Canada. Spences Bridge is a very old town with stunning scenery and great fishing. There is no shopping, but there is a wonderful little log cabin pub, which offers great food, a combined coffee shop/post office / small store for essentials only.  We were there for about a month, which allowed for great exploring the surrounding areas and what I refer to as circle tours, great little day trips. The back road to Merritt is a lovely drive. There is no need to stay on the main highways when you explore. Merritt a lively small town. The trip from Merritt to Logan Lake, another town that is unexpected is a mining community, set in some beautiful country. Continuing on your venture to Ashcroft which can also be accessed from Highway 1, but the back road from Logan Lake to Ashcroft gives you many awe stopping moments.  Ashcroft is a delightful town. It has a bit of everything.

 

Another circle tour saw us go from Spences Bridge to Lytton, and on to Lillooet. Another town steep in history, quaint, and yet it has maintained its unique style but up to date at the same time, with everything including lovely wineries.  We then arrived back in Kamloops for a couple of weeks then another move this time to the West Kootenays, finding ourselves in Castlegar.  The Kootenays have offered us much to see and for me a homecoming. I was born just down the road in Trail and grew up in Fruitvale. After 46 years of absence, I have returned at least for a time.  This trip has been an unbelievable chapter in my life, exploring Rossland, Trail, Nelson, and surrounding areas, Fruitvale will be next and will be a chapter unto itself I think.  Many great little circle tours here. Castlegar, Trail, Rossland, and back around the majestic Nancy Green Mountain. These towns offer a glimpse into the past and how much of the past still function here today side by side with life as we have it today.  Taking the highway from Castlegar through the Slocan Valley to Nakusp and down into the Okanagan, is another breathtaking journey. Lakes abound, Kootenay Lake with the majesty of Nelson perched on its hillside, Arrow Lakes, home to Nakusp, New Denver, Slocan Lake which boosts the quaint town of Slocan.

I have more areas yet to explore, but this is what the last year has looked like.  I hope to share more of my journey as long as my health allows, and life sees us having the opportunities. My advice to everyone, don’t just drive through towns, stop the car, get out, take a walk, you may meet some incredible people and see things you never imagined.  These are things and moments that make life memorable

 

 

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Anatomy of a travel plan

 

Resfeber (n) the restless race of the traveller’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together, a “travel fever” that can manifest as an illness

Probably the most difficult part of planning a trip for me is deciding where to go. I want to see the whole world! I try to visit two countries at a time. I figure that if I am going to spend that amount of money, I want to see more than one place and experience as much as I can.  Friends keep mentioning Portugal, and how beautiful and inexpensive it is. So, out comes my world map.  I have been to some parts of Spain, and consider exploring other Spanish cities. Then, my wandering eye spots Morocco. Visions of riding a camel, sleeping in the desert in a Bedouin camp and seeing the market in Marrakech fill my dreamy head. I am excited! Portugal and Morocco it is.

My first research entails airfare. My brain fixates on flying into Porto as a friend of mine flys to Porto on a regular basis. ……Back to the map. So if I fly into Porto, stay there for a bit and then travel to Lisbon, I can fly, or take a ferry to Morocco. Then back to Lisbon to fly home. This is not making sense. There has to be a better way.

In the meantime, I am given some recommendations for tours in Morocco. As I would be uncomfortable travelling as a lone female through this Arab male-dominated country, I consider booking a tour. I pour through the websites.

I have a rough idea of the cost of flying to Porto, but decided to get help through a travel agent. I drop in to see Maria, at Quadra Travel. She was a godsend. After listening to my wishes, she quickly suggests that I fly into Casablanca, do a tour and fly to Lisbon for a week and a half and then to Porto for the same amount of time. I would then fly home from Porto. She gives me a brochure from G Adventures, a Canadian company that has an excellent reputation for tours all over the world. They do small groups and have fifty self-sustaining community initiatives. My options are either an eight-day or a fifteen-day tour. The difference in cost was minimal and because I had just celebrated my 70th birthday, decided that the fifteen-day tour was my gift to myself. It is amazing how one can justify anything! Once I make that decision, then Maria gets busy with the travel portion.

I want to use my Airmiles for the home to Toronto portion, stay a few days in Toronto and then fly direct to Casablanca. Maria notes that it was not going to be a lot of difference in airfare if I flew directly to Casablanca. Because I want to use my Airmiles for my upcoming four-month yearly Mexico trip, I decided to go with her suggestion. Maria manages to get an excellent price for the airfare which also includes the Marrakech to Lisbon portion. She booked the tour for me as well.

 

 

So where am I now in the plans? My airfare is booked and paid. My Moroccan tour is booked, with a 25% deposit, the balance to be paid in July.

The next step is to plan the Portugal portion – places I want to see and approximately how long I will need in each location. With that done,  I can plan my accommodations which will probably be with Airbnb. I will post when I have decided. The final step will be my wardrobe. I will endeavour to travel with a carry-on and a small backpack. I will let you know how that goes.

I would strongly suggest using a travel agent to help with your travel plans. Not only will they make excellent suggestions but can get the best prices for airfare.

How do you start making travel plans?

Pole Dancing 101

We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us. Author unknown

 

This post will probably be my shortest to date, but I wanted to share my experience. It started with an invitation to a ladies day that included pole dancing but with the assurance that no clothes would be removed. Destination unknown.  I hesitated for a day or two. Then I entered a new decade, and my mind instantly went to ‘what the heck, I am not getting any younger’ mode. So I accepted.

We all met at Esmeralda’s Restaurant which is in Melaque, Mexico. Esmeralda and two of her friends organized this trip. Champagne and orange juice (mimosas) were served until the bus arrived. Yes, the bus. There were 30 women who apparently also had that ‘what the heck’ frame of mind. On the bus, we went, only to be served more mimosas and beer. Only in Mexico can you legally drink on a bus.

We drove to the outskirts of the next town where the driver pulled up in front of Glady’s Bar2. I think it is a combination of a strip joint, pole dancing and who knows what else. We went inside, and they had tables nicely set up for us around the stage. So it began.

We were served drinks and food. It is a botañero, which is common in Mexico. They bring free food when you order drinks. The food was very good.

The entertainment started with a young girl doing a pole dance. I was wondering if she enjoyed what she was doing. After she had finished a couple of dances, she invited us to join her for a few lessons in pole dancing. Not many went up. I did. I was still in that ‘what the heck’ frame of mind plus a couple of drinks helped ease any hesitancy. After trying it, I concluded that if I had to make a living doing this, I would be in trouble. I don’t think I would get many tips if any.

There was entertainment by a transvestite. I think she was fairly new as she seemed to be out of sync with the lyrics etc.

Some of the women who knew I had a birthday yesterday, got the DJ to sing to me. He has a nice voice, and as they say, he was eye candy.

The bar had never had a group of Caucasian women in the bar before. I think we entertained them more than they did us. Certainly, the work camp in the next lot was highly entertained. This older gentleman was very entertained by all the ladies. I was surprised when he got up to dance when asked by one of the women. As we were leaving he wanted to shake everyone’s hand.

For the women reading this, I am sure you can understand what it is like to have a bunch of women get together and let loose. For the men, probably not. I was contemplating why we women did this when it occurred to me that men do the same thing except more frequently. They hoot and holler at games, whether they are at a game or watching it on TV. We women never get to let loose or choose not to on a regular basis so when we have a chance well …

All in all, we had a great time and even more so on the bus back to town. We didn’t cause any international incidents, and no one was injured! Thank you, Esmeralda, for arranging this for us. It was fun to let our hair down.

 

Four months in Mexico

The best things in life are the people we love, the places we’ve been and the memories we’ve made along the way.”  Anonymous

 

My husband and I spend four months in Melaque, Mexico every winter. We always get comments like “it must be nice to be able to go for four months” to “what do you do all day” or there is the assumption that we are on the beach everyday drinking beer and margaritas.

First the “it must be nice to be able to go for four months.”  We are not wealthy so most people can do what we do. We cancel our car insurance and get storage insurance instead.  We suspend our cable and internet. We suspend our cell phone subscription and save 100.00 a month just for that. We do not have to pay for gas for our vehicle which is another 100.00. These are just some of the things we do to save money.

Our two bedroom apartment in Mexico costs us $600.00 to $700.00 per month depending on the exchange so as you can see; we end up paying about half of that with the savings from all the different things we do. Food is inexpensive in Mexico. For the equivalent of $36.00 Cdn. I can get two rib-eye steaks; 2 pork chops; a large chicken; 1 kg. ground beef; ½  kg. bacon and 1 kg. ribs. Fruit and vegetables are always fresh and very cheap. We eat well here. It is always a shock and not a nice one when we go back home and buy groceries for the first time.

 

 

What do we do all day? First, it was just about a month before I went to the beach. We have a pool at our complex. I take Spanish lessons once a week; we play Mexican train occasionally with friends; we go to the big market on Wednesdays plus lunch; we go for walks; I have a massage once a week and once a month I have a facial. My husband takes a lot of walks looking for “the picture.” Other times we are touring friends or people new to the area around. There is another beach, Cuastecomates, that is a five-minute taxi ride from our casa. It is small but the water is clear, and the snorkeling is good. Sometimes we will go to La Manzanilla where you can walk for two hours on the flat beach. They also have a crocodile sanctuary where you can see the crocodiles up close and personal literally. The town is small but quaint with plenty of artists who call this their home. Occasionally we will drive an hour to the big city of Manzanillo to go shopping.

Cuastecomates

La Manzanilla

There are art shows, parades, skimboarding competitions and running competitions. You can go fishing for Marlin, Dorado, Red Snapper and more. There are bridge, Mexican train and cribbage clubs.

We visit friends we have made here; go to restaurants especially the ones that have entertainment. There is so much talent in this place. You could go out every night of the week and not see the same entertainers.

We also try to go to other places in Mexico either on our own or with a tour company. Mex-Eco Tours have interesting tours that they provide. The guides are extremely knowledgeable, and the tours are well planned.

Yes, there is still lots of time for relaxing, reading, daydreaming or sitting on the beach drinking beer and margaritas!

What do you do to save money in order to travel?

 

A new travel year.

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”  John Muir

As 2018 rolls in, I am in Melaque, Mexico with writer’s block and a cold which affected my brain! I could not put two words together on paper, nor did I want to, hence the late post. The very unreliable internet was not helping matters either.

I had tentatively planned to go to Portugal in 2017, but as some plans tend to do, it did not happen. Instead, we traveled within Northern B.C. One of the highlights was a night at Cassiar Cannery as guests of Mark and Justine. The amount of work they have done is amazing.

 

 

 

More exploring close to home, brought an opportunity to tour local gardens and see the different ideas that people had for their properties.

 

 

A trip to Shames mountain was breathtaking but the memory of being chased back into the car by bugs and closing the door just in time, just as half a dozen bugs slammed into the car window, still brings chuckles.

 

 

An interview with Debbie Douglas, of Westcoast Launch, was truly inspiring.

 

My 2018 travel plans after Mexico, will probably be Portugal and Morocco. It is still in the planning stage. Does anyone have any tips or places that are a must see in Portugal or Morocco?  I have such a large bucket list that sometimes it is difficult trying to pick just one or two places to go.

What are your travel plans for 2018? Do you have a bucket list? If money and time were no object, what would your dream trip look like?

 

 

Go West Girls Go West

This month I am pleased to present a guest writer to The Travelling Lady, Christine Thelker.  I met Christine and was instantly enthralled with her travel stories. I hope you find this story as interesting as I do. Welcome Christine

 

My name is Christine Thelker, I am a born and raised British Columbia girl, and for most of my 58 years, I have been somewhat of a gypsy. I love to drive, love to explore, see new places, and have been fortunate enough to see a variety of countries. What I truly love is to explore things right out our back door. The backroads, backcountry, the towns and cities and the people that make us who we are.  From an afternoon adventure to being gone for weeks on end, my motto is “ get in let’s go.” I currently live in Vernon BC, where even a couple of days every year doing Okanagan Wine touring can turn up some unexpected things and places, but I am gone at every opportunity because you never know whats around the next corner.

Go West Girls Go West 

finding or losing ourselves

Planning a girls road trip begins with a dream, the desire to see more, experience more, see places, meet people, it’s not about family, it’s not about romance, it’s a more basic yearning to find ourselves again.  Those adventurous young girls, who weren’t afraid to venture out on our own, to find the carefree spirit that is in us all, that little girl who giggles at the wind and marvels at the wonder all around her. It’s that desire that starts the wheels in motion for a girls trip. I had the honor of traveling to the Prince Rupert Area, more specifically to the Cassiar Cannery in Port Edward a few years ago. I talked so much of it, and its magic, that the ladies who would be my traveling companions wanted to go….my response ….let’s do it

So it became a back and forth of many emails, how far is everyone comfortable traveling each day, how much is everyone comfortable spending on accommodation, food, types of accommodation suitable for everyone.  Part of the pleasure of the trip is in the planning itself and watching it evolve until departure time. Over the next several months the plan was made, to go from Vernon BC to Port Edward BC.

 

Leaving Vernon, we head to Kamloops then head across to 100-mile house; we knew fires were still burning, we weren’t sure what we would see.  What we saw was devastation for sure, but stopping at a little antique shop, what we found were people who were resilient, determined and willing to do the work to rebuild their communities. We saw fields scorched, yet you could see the green of the rebirth of grasses. So through the vastness of the area, we stopped, looked at the raw beauty, and you see the hard work it takes to live in this country, and you appreciate the beauty that captures people to come and stay and be part of this beautiful countryside. Along the route we were aware, there was a lot of firefighting efforts going on, in some areas the smoke so strong, other areas the skies were blue, but the burnt smell enveloped you, it was contradictory in what you were seeing and what you were smelling. We were at times all quiet; it was difficult to comprehend what we were seeing.  Traveling further we arrived to find Williams Lake very busy, a city getting back to life, the busyness almost felt too busy, too rushed for a city that normally seemed to have a laid backness to it.  We traveled through to Barkerville; it was on the list of must see and do’s. The little town of Wells, which is at the entrance to Barkerville, is unto itself a place to see and explore, the people are delightful, helpful. We stayed at a lovely little house we rented for two nights known as the Mountain Thyme Getaway, it was a lovely accommodation that provided everything one could need to truly unwind, from the well-equipped kitchen to the old turntable and LP’s for one’s enjoyment.  The owners were most helpful and owned the gift shop next door, which was well stocked with a variety of gift ideas.  A full day at Barkerville we explored, enjoyed fresh baked goods at the old bakery, panned for gold, took in a live theatre production, and a stagecoach ride.  For sure a busy day, but worthy of the stop and ensuring we were rested by staying the night of arrival and the following night was the best way to enjoy and be ready for the journey to our next stop.

The following day we travelled to Prince George, stopping briefly before making our way towards Smithers.  We stopped along the way; exploring many little communities.  After a picnic lunch at the pictureous town of Burns Lake, one more stop at  Frazer Lake, and then on to explore Smithers, a lovely city, surrounded by exquisite scenery.  We were en route to our next stop which was in Morristown, known for its fishing and wildlife, we turned off the highways and made our way 12 Kilometers into the backcountry, rolling hills, beautiful ranches, and then we arrived, a beautifully carved gate announcing we were now at the Last Dollar Ranch.  We stopped and marveled at the workmanship of the gate, opening the gate we made our way along until the road opened up to a lovely looking home, with signage to cabins, and the lodge. Amongst cows meandering, the lodge stood out tall and grand. We went to the house to find a note posted that the owner was across the drive working on a new cabin. Making our way towards the cabin, which looked more like a beautiful country home, we found our host Tammo, a delightful man, originally from Holland.  He built this for his retirement.

 

 

He has built it from scratch, and his workmanship is impressive.  He had us follow him to our cabin, ( I could live there ) opening the door, we stopped, it was so beautifully done, spacious, relaxing, a fireplace stood in Grandview of a large expanse of windows overlooking a large wrap around deck. Three large bedrooms, a kitchen, and bathroom that would have many wishing it was their house.  There was a great supply of firewood for the fireplace and the outdoor fire pit.  After unpacking, it was time to take a stroll and take in the scenery, already wishing we would have booked in longer, another place to return too.  It’s easy to just be with your thoughts here, a peaceful tranquility that is difficult to find these days.  We all spent the day, exploring, relaxing and enjoying some individual solitude, before meeting back up at the cabin for a lovely dinner, and then a fire at the fire pit.

 

Tammo joined us in the evening, truly someone who you won’t soon forget.   A blissful sleep in beds that were comfortable and cozy.  After a relaxing morning, good breakfast we regrettably had to head off to our final destination.  The Last Dollar Ranch is so worth the visit and the trip to get there, but I suggest you book at least 3 or 4 days because one just isn’t enough.  We were all now feeling relaxed and thought that the trip was providing exactly what we all needed, time to recharge, refresh.

The scenery between Morristown and Terrace is breathtaking, waterfalls, majestic mountains, truly an area to treasure, rainforests, lakes, rivers, untouched, unspoiled.  After a coffee stop in Terrace, we were ready for the drive to Port Edward. A quick trip into Prince Rupert, then on to our destination of Port Edward and the Cassier Cannery

It is a place hard to describe; there is something magical about this place, you feel your whole being just relax. The air is fresh, the quietness is almost overwhelming, no traffic, or white noise, just the sounds of water lapping at the shores, the birds and Mother Natures rustling leaves.

 

We went into Prince Rupert on our second day where we met the Harbor Master, who was more than happy to explain the comings and goings of the waterways of the Port.  The town itself is full of rich history, steeped in traditions; another trip will be planned for the failed Halibut fishing. We had planned on going halibut fishing out of Prince Rupert, but just days before the fisheries shut down all the halibut fishing, so Justine ( owner of Cassiar Cannery) said she could plan us another excursion that she was sure would satisfy, along with her and her son, off we went to meet (Rob Bryce) a local guide who would take us on an unbelievable trip.  We met at the mouth of the Kasiks River and Skeena Rivers, up the Skeena River to the Gitnadoix River, stunning scenery, mountains, glaciers,
waterfalls everywhere. It’s a trip very few have ever traveled, the water levels must be right to get up the River, once up the river, it opens up to Alistair Lake, untouched, pristine, it was truly an Awe moment, one of those moments that puts everything into perspective.  After lunch and fire on a small beach, with two waterfalls behind us, making our way back down we ventured into the waterways of the river, one marsh area we explored opened up to us to show us beautiful wild white swans, so unexpected so graceful.

 

 

 

Coming back to the Kasiks River, we then ventured up it to look at salmon spawning and again more spectacular scenery. We ventured out of the boat a couple of times, I found some very fresh, very large bear prints, so it had likely been fishing not long before our arrival.  The areas and waterways of the two rivers are so different and diverse; it truly was one of those trips that the saying a picture is worth a thousand words….So, I will leave you with that…. Did we find ourselves? I think we found much more.

 

 

 

Prince Rupert Garden Tours

A mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions. Travel. Learn. Grow.

Andrée Fawcett has been heavily involved in the gardening community in Prince Rupert, B.C. for many years and was the leading force behind the annual Garden Tour that started 15 – 20 years ago. Because of her involvement at a local nursery, she got a reputation as someone you could go to and ask about plants. She kept hearing people say time and time again that you can’t grow anything in Prince Rupert. So she brought this topic up before the Prince Rupert Garden Club. She stated to the club that there was a need to show that you can grow just about anything you want.  She knew of several people who grew all sorts of plants and vegetables that other people thought were impossible to grow in Prince Rupert. So the Garden Tours were started. People also believed that not a lot could be grown in Prince Rupert mainly due to the weather and because all they saw were the front yards. Little did they know what inspiring gardens were in the backyards.

Once a year, around the 3rd or 4th week in July, people have an opportunity to view about 6 or 7 homes on a self-guided tour. The tickets are $15.00 per person, and that includes a lovely afternoon tea at Andrée’s home which besides her inspiring garden has a lovely ocean view. All the food has been donated, made and served by volunteers. One’s diet could easily be broken here!

The owner of this shed/greenhouse, built it herself

Even a small place can become a sanctuary

All proceeds of the garden tour go to the Sunken Gardens which is behind the courthouse. The Sunken Gardens, as the name implies, is an area which was dug out to build the courthouse. According to the Sunken Garden’s website, the foundation was laid down but was halted due to the outbreak of World War 1. After the war, updated plans called for the building to be moved 35 feet in front of the original foundation to be closer to McBride Street and 2nd Avenue. During World War II, the American military used the aborted foundation as an ammunition storage site. They constructed tunnels on either side for easy access, keeping the supply secret by covering it with a tarp. Once the war was over, the garden became a make-work project for the relief men to earn money. Today, the Sunken Gardens is maintained by volunteers except for one paid person. The Province of British Columbia gives a grant each year to pay for the one staff and plants.

The members of the garden club when it started in the late 20’s, were all men and mainly Italian men as they did all the gardening. Most of what they grew was vegetables for their own use. Today, the club consists of mostly women.

I asked Andrée if there was a trend now with people growing their own vegetables. “Absolutely,” she said,”it started about ten years ago and came on strong about five years ago. People are so into growing their own vegetables that they forget that you need the flowers to attract the bees. If you don’t have the flowers, then you don’t have the bees to bring to the vegetables. No one is pollinating your plants.”

I have gone to a number of garden tours over the years and had always come away with at least one idea to implement in my garden much to the chagrin of my husband! It is amazing what people have planted and built in their gardens. It is quite inspiring.

If there isn’t a Garden Tour in your town, perhaps you could start one. I love that I can snoop into other peoples gardens.